Join Date: May 2006
We just got back from the Torrents trip and I just wanted to say that it exceeded our expectations in every way. We had heavy rain every day that required altering the schedule quite a bit, but SWA always found us something fun to paddle. They provided excellent lodging at their Quijos lodge and a nice hotel when we went on field trips. The home-cooked breakfast and dinner at the lodge was awesome and our meals out in Tena were great as well. Sandwiches and snacks were also provided for lunch. The guides were outstanding, helpful and friendly but not intruding; they were just friends that knew the river and had the added bonus of being responsible for cleaning up yardsales and loading boats. There were absolutely no logistical issues; shuttles were always where they were supposed to be at the right time. SWA has a really classy thing going on.
Here's a little TR:
Day 1: SWA picks us up at the Travellers Inn, a nice, clean, affordable little hotel in Quito. The vans are very nice (Sprinters) and the drivers are cool. After a 2-3 hour drive over Papallacta Pass we arrive in the Quijos valley at SWA's riverside lodge, Cabanas Tres Rios. We unpack and have a fantastic hot lunch, then outfit the boats that were reserved for us when we booked the trip. We meet our guides, Greg, Tarquino, and Michael, and put in the Quijos River right at the lodge to run the Pica Piedra section. The east coasters in our group (who have been boating hard for the last couple months) run the put-in rapid, Gamechanger, while those of us that hardly boated last year put in below it to get a proper warm up. We're told the level is medium-high and the river definitely has more of a big water feel with some large waves and a couple munchy holes. The section is a good warm up and everyone gets to know each other.
Day 2: We're awakened sometime around midnight to the sound of a torrential downpour and it doesn't let up all night. During an awesome hot breakfast, we get the word that all the rivers in the valley are too high and we're going to Tena a day early. An hour and a half later, we're at the put-in for the Upper Misahualli. We're told the water is a little high but should be fun. Fantastic class IV pool-drop creeking with fun boofs and S-turns makes the river one of my new favorites. Despite a shit show, quadruple swim in one of the last rapids everyone is grinning at the takeout and we head to a monkey rehab center to relax before heading to the self-proclaimed "best hotel in Tena." The place is very nice, riverside and off the main drag. For dinner we head to a nice little place with something for everyone and big portions. Oh, and there is a resident sloth that makes his home in the window coverings.
Day 3: It rained hard again last night so we opt for a big volume river called the Jatanyacu. Right from the put-in you feel like you're in the middle of the jungle, probably because you're in the middle of the jungle. Big water class III and excellent scenery make for a relaxing, fun day. We did have a little scare at one point as the river makes a 90 degree right turn against a 100 foot cliff. Nine of the 10 in our group were in the eddy clear of the wall when a few rocks start coming down. Our 10th was still against the cliff and rocks as big as bowling balls are splashing down around her. Fortunately the big ones miss her but she did take a head shot from a smaller one. She's OK and finish up the run and go to a small town for drinks and snacks. Monkeys inhabit the town square here and provide good entertainment. Dinner is at a riverside bar and we bring some excellent pizza from a local joint.
Day 4: It rained again last night, but not as hard as it has been. We decide to try the Piatua section, though the guides feel it may still be too high. The Sprinters can't go across one of the bridges to the put-in so we have to hire a fleet of taxis to take us. When we get to a spot where the river level can be seen, everyone hops out and the guides go down to have a look. After a while they came back up, looking a little more nervous than we would have liked. Two of the three groups decide the water is too high and head out. Our guides tell us that it's higher than they would prefer but think we'll be OK, so we give it a shot. Greg proclaims us to be "All Time Lucky Motherfuckers" to catch a high water Piatua day. After trying to say that in Spanish and deciding it may not translate well, we drive to the put-in. The water looks like a perfect level, but then we see that a couple hundred yards downstream is a confluence that will more than double the flow. Nerves are rising but the whitewater doesn't look too hard so we put-on and head down. Shortly after the confluence things pick up and we have a pair of holeriders. They both dig out eventually and we eddy out to scout a big drop. The meat looks fast and a little scary but we find a nice sneak on the right and everything goes great. Then more steep boogy and the river just isn't letting up at all. After a few more minutes of tense, edge of your seat boating we decide we may have made a mistake and decide to take the walk of shame through the jungle back to the road. I'm glad we tried it but wish the water would have been a bit lower. We load up and head back to run the Upper Misahualli again, which is just as much fun as the first time. After boating we have another good dinner at the sloth place.
Day 5: It rained again last night (is there a theme here?), and our plans to head back to the Quijos were delayed a day, so we stayed one last night in Tena. We got up and did the Upper Misahualli again, putting in a couple miles higher than we have been. The put-in rapid has a sweet boof at the end that is run about 30 times between everyone in the group. The water is lower but still super fun and we managed to do the run swim free this time. After boating we head back over the pass to the lodge and another awesome home-cooked meal.
Day 6: It rained again last night, briefly burying the gauge rock, but by the time we're ready to boat it's sticking out of the water again. The Quijos is flowing big and the little creek that comes in just upstream of the lodge, the Rio Borja, is running. It's described as "scary class III", which sounds like it may just be for us since the scary class IV scared us away from the Piatua. The put-in requires a slog through a pasture of (mostly) mud, occasionally up to knee deep. We each rinsed our legs out for a while before climbing in our boats to run some fast, shallow, super fun mank. I felt like I was back home maneuvering around boulders and bouncing down thin rapids. The flow goes from 500ish to 5000ish at the Quijos confluence and we run down the Pica Piedra section for some enourmous waves and big water goodness. A few meat lines are taken here and there but even the sneaks are exciting. We decide to take a second lap down the Quijos section and are exhausted and the takeout and ready for another good meal. After dinner we learn the national card game of Ecuador, Cuarenta. It's a fun game that's easy to learn and is equal parts luck and skill. Good times.
Day 7: It rained again last night and we were worried there would be nothing to paddle, but the gauge rock came out in the morning and we repeated the Borja-Pica Piedra section from yesterday. We were all totally exhausted from paddling hard for seven days and after a final delicous lunch, we head back to Quito and stay one last night at the Travellers Inn. In the middle of our trip, the old Quito airport closed and the new one opened, which is 45 minutes to two hours away from the old one, depending on traffic. SWA arranged an inexpensive ride to the airport for us and everything went off without a hitch.